Perception of danger in the southern Arizona borderlands


  • Henrik Dorf Nielsen University of Eastern Finland


The mainstream paradigm of the US-Mexico borderlands is that   the undocumented migrants are posing a serious threat to the area, yet who or what is actually in danger at the border and what is the danger? This paper explores, through a phenomenological participant-researcher approach, the tension and different perceptions of danger connected to the southern Arizona borderlands. By joining the humanitarian aid group Ajo Samaritans as a volunteer, the borderland is both experienced and observed on the ground through active participation. In closing, it is observed that different actors convey different, and at times even direct opposite, dangers that elevate tension in the area. Under the surface, however, there are similarities and while this study argues that there are many threats as well as endangered entities in the desert, the undocumented migrants are the group most threatened and the desert itself poses the greatest danger.


Popular article based on the paper, with commentaries, is published in Versus Research Debate.

Research Papers



How to Cite

Nielsen, H. D. (2020). Perception of danger in the southern Arizona borderlands. Fennia - International Journal of Geography, 198(1-2), 74–90.